Thursday, April 9, 2009

Kirk Bjornsgaard's "CONFESSIONS OF A FORMER ROCK QUEEN" - review by Pat Browning

Sometimes you have to wonder about life’s timing.

Almost a year ago Kirk Bjornsgaard submitted his first novel to 4RVPublishing, a small but busy Oklahoma press. He signed a contract and manuscript edits began. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that Kirk was diagnosed with cancer. But wait. There was hopeful news. The cancer went into remission. Then came the time for final edits, and there was dreadful news. Kirk called the publisher from the hospital. The cancer was back.

Vivian Zabel, president of 4RVPublishing, completed the edits with the help of a couple of editors/writers. Kirk just had to read, make suggestions, and give the final okay. CONFESSIONS OF A FORMER ROCK QUEEN, a stunning debut with a '60s rock and roll theme, was published in March.

Kirk is an acquisitions editor for the University of Oklahoma Press, with a lifetime of writing and editorial experience. He has also played drums in rock and roll bands since high school, so he wrote his novel from experience in the music business.

Right now he’s going through the hell of chemo. Even so, he did a great interview for Vivian’s blog. Here are a couple of comments:


… I’d long wanted to write a novel that had rock’n’roll as its back story, its narrative vehicle. Too often, rock music has been utilized in novels and in most every case the author knows too little about the mechanics of the music, the instruments, and the performers. As a drummer in innumerable bands over the years I wanted to get the details ‘right.’

The inspiration came in a fully-formed story. This wasn’t one of those “start writing and see where it goes” books. It’s never happened before or since but the narrative arc and the characters came to me, fully-formed, and I just set out to write it as I envisioned it. The first draft from a decade ago looks a lot like the final, published version in its basic form and characters.

End Quote.

He also comments: “Frankly, the cancer and its treatments and side effects have brought writing to a screeching halt. The extreme fatigue brought on by the disease and the side effects of chemo have made further work impossible … To call this a major setback in my life––after 57 years of near-perfect health––is an understatement; but my family and I are dealing with it to the best of our abilities, thanks to many good friends and colleagues.”

You can read the interview on Vivian’s blog at

Promotion is out of the question and that’s where the generosity of others plays such an important role. On a moment’s notice, the ever-gracious Kaye Barley allowed me to post this, plus my book review, here on Meanderings and Musings.

My review:

A Time And Place Preserved

By Pat Browning

It’s six o'clock in the morning and I've been up all night reading CONFESSIONS OF A FORMER ROCK STAR QUEEN by Kirk Bjornsgaard. This stunning novel revisits the 1960s in the beguiling story of a young farm girl who wants more than anything to get out of Oklahoma and make it big in the New York music world. I don't know whether the author has total recall, or whether he kept copious notes, but he has recreated a time and place in a way that few writers do.

The book begins and ends in Beggs, Oklahoma, a wide spot in the road near Tulsa. In a prologue, Sarah Morely, head of Morely Oil, gets an unwelcome visitor. A veteran journalist has tracked down former associates of rock star Sally Moore for a book he’s writing. He wants to know what really happened to Sally Moore, whose obituary was written in 1969. The following chapters flash back to Sarah’s brief reign as rock star Sally Moore and her Karma band.

It begins while Sarah is still in high school, chafing at the restrictions of her church-centered life and the demands of her guardian, the straight-laced Aunt Mae. The rest of the world is tuning into rock and roll. Sarah takes her father’s old Martin guitar to a school talent show audition.

Waiting her turn, she strikes up a conversation with a shy student who plays piano. When she apologizes for her limited repertoire of folk, church and hillbilly songs, he says, “Well, Hank Williams built an entire career around three chords and a Christian upbringing.”

They audition as a duet and win. Things move swiftly and before long Sarah is the girl singer in a garage band. The boys in the band treat it as a lark. Sarah has bigger ideas. On New Year’s Eve she takes her guitar and her father’s truck and heads for Dallas. She walks into a coffee house, announces that she’s a folk singer and offers to perform for free during intermission.

The headliner, a musician from New York, gives her his business card, inviting her to look him up if she ever comes to New York. The day comes when Sarah persuades her band mates that it’s time they got out of the sticks and looked up the guy she met in Dallas. The story of their dazzling success and eventual breakup is a bittersweet tale, beautifully written.

My only quibble is perhaps a bit too much dialect in the story. Even so, the writing is superb, like music on the page. It was worth staying up all night to finish.


Vivian Zabel said...

Thank you, Kaye, for allowing Pat to share the information about Kirk and his book.

Thanks, Pat, for spreading the word.

elysabeth said...

Thank you for the review, Pat. The more exposure, the better off (hopefully) sales will be. We are all pulling for succes for all authors. It is a good review and hopefully more will read the book. We need to reach the music industry with this book and hope it takes off from there - E :)

Anonymous said...

Well, I've had some coffee and woke up enough to see a couple of glaring errors in that post.

First off, this is Meandering and Muses, not that other name I gave it. I apologize,Kaye.(-:

Second, Kirk's book is CONFESSIONS OF A FORMER ROCK QUEEN. It says so right there on the cover.

For some reason I had ROCK STAR QUEEN on the brain.

Other than that -- I just ate a huge late breakfast and think I'll take a nap.

Best to all,
Pat Browning

Unknown said...

Well to one and all, I thank you for taking the time to read the book and your kind words on this novel. I am David Bjornsgaard, Kirk's brother, and I am very proud of my brother and this piece of work. It is just as I have imagined, a very time accurate account of what probably did go on in the 60's and a great read. I think about Kirk all the time and remember the years growing up and learning to play rock and roll.

Bless you,
David Bjornsgaard

Anonymous said...

It's nice to hear from you, David. Thanks for checking in!

Pat Browning

Vivian Zabel said...

Thank you for leaving a comment, David. Kirk is a very special person, and we at 4RV hope his book gainers the credit it deserves.


Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

I am happy and quite proud that Meanderings and Muses might be helpful in getting out the word about this wonderful book for this lovely man.

I add my warm thoughts along with all those going to Kirk from so many.

Kaye Barley

Anonymous said...

Wonderful review! I can hardly wait to start reading CONFESSIONS OF A FORMER ROCK QUEEN. As soon as I finish judging a contest for another writing club (two books to go) I'll begin.

Erwin said...

I grew up in the 60's with Kirk and his brother Dave. We played together in a rock band.
Later in the early 70's in a country western band.I remember him telling me one night that he wanted to write a book. I just found ouy this morning that he passed away. I had't spoken to him a few years and was unaware of his struggle.I will miss him! I bought his book today and can't wait to read it.

Vivian Zabel said...

Kirk's loss will leave a hole. I posted a tribute to him on my blog and on the home page of the 4RV web site

Karl said...

I went to junior high school with Dave, Kirk's brother and remember seeing Kirk's band at a Battle of the Bands at CB West HS back in the day. Rumor had it that Kirk went to take drum lessons from a local guy and the guy told him after one session that Kirk knew more than he did! Kirk was super intelligent but the most down to earth guy you ever met. I hadn't seen him in years. I was so sad to hear of his passing. Sincerely, Karl S.

Anonymous said...

Erwin and Carl:

It's so great to have Kirk's old friends checking in. I only knew Kirk as a member of the Oklahoma Federation of Writers but we exchanged some private e-mails, and I really liked him. He wrote a wonderful book. I'm so glad he lived to see it published.

Pat Browning

Vivian Zabel said...

A side note to the post, Kirk's novel won the 2010 Oklahoma Book Award. Noma and Kelsey, Kirk's daughter, accepted the medal in his place.